In our society today, as a teacher you should make the assumption that you have one or more students in your classroom who are of indigenous descent. Due to this, it is important to, before you begin this lesson, take the time to sit your class down and give them a ‘trigger warning’ or ‘pre-talk’ that you will be giving a lesson on residential schools, culture, etc.
Since some of your students may have Indigenous parents, grandparents, friends, or other relatives, they may be struggling with intergenerational trauma. By discussing the lesson before hand, you give students the opportunity to open up to you about their comfort zone with this talk, it prepares them mentally for the discussion that is going to happen that may be a trigger for them, or it also gives the teacher the opportunity to ask students if they have any suggestions on how to talk about this issue and if they would feel comfortable talking about their heritage in addition to the lesson.
This is the first stepping stone in creating a safe-place for students in the classroom. Not only for Indigenous students but also for other students who may empathize with this topic and find it upsetting.
In addition, consider having a counsellor in the classroom when discussing Residential Schools for students to express their feelings after. One last thing to consider is having an Elder come in and speak about the topic or consult the school boards Indigenous liaison for further help.